Starting today, those looking to bail out of the Air Force can apply for voluntary retirement or separation under nine force reduction programs. (SA Andrew Lee/Air Force)
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'There are going to be a lot of good airmen who will have to leave our Air Force, and that's unfortunate,' Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody said. (Airman 1st Class Areca T. Wilson/Air Force)
Starting today, those looking to bail out of the Air Force can apply for voluntary retirement or separation under nine force reduction programs.
Both enlisted airmen and officers who are eligible for Temporary Early Retirement Authority, which allow airmen to retire with as little as 15 years of service, can apply between today and March 26, according to an Air Force memo. Officers who are at risk of appearing before an Enhanced Selective Early Retirement Board, or E-SERB, will be able to request voluntary retirement in lieu of meeting that board between today and May 16.
Officers who are facing a reduction in force board will also be able to apply for voluntary separation pay between today and May 1, according to a Dec. 23 memo obtained by Air Force Times. If approved, those officers would get 1.25 times the standard separation payment. Officers also can apply for TERA between today and March 26 to avoid a RIF. The Air Force Personnel Center said in a Jan. 14 release that details on the RIF and force shaping boards are still being finalized, and should be released within the next two weeks.
On the enlisted side, airmen who are at risk of meeting a new Quality Force Review Board because they have a negative quality indicator code are now able to apply for voluntary retirement or separation to avoid meeting that board. That window will close March 26.
And senior airmen, staff sergeants, technical sergeants and senior noncommissioned officers facing enlisted retention boards because they are in overmanned fields will be able to apply for voluntary separation, TERA, or, if they are eligible to retire, retirement between today and May 1.
The Air Force is urging eligible airmen to accept voluntary retirement or separation to lessen or eliminate its need to involuntarily cut airmen.
“Our strategy is to use the max use of voluntary programs that we can,” Brig. Gen. Gina Grosso said last month. “Everywhere where we’ve been able to incentivize people to leave monetarily, we’re going to.”
Throughout 2014, the service plans to roll out 18 voluntary and involuntary force management programs to reduce the ranks and help it adjust to across-the-board budget cuts known as the sequester. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh has repeatedly said that the service could have to cut up to 25,000 airmen over the next five years if the sequester continues.
“There are going to be a lot of good airmen who will have to leave our Air Force, and that’s unfortunate,” Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody said during a tour of Langley Air Force Base in Virginia last week. “But there will still be a lot of airmen in our Air Force, and it’s important they ask themselves, ‘Do I want to be an airman?’ If the answer is yes, there will be a place for you in our Air Force if you work hard and do your very best. If the answer is no, then you may need to think about what is next for you, and that’s okay.”
The clock is already ticking for two other force management programs. Last month, the Air Force began accepting voluntary retirement applications from retirement-eligible chief master sergeants in 45 overmanned career fields. That window to apply for retirement will close March 15.
And 10 retirement-eligible airmen who will be separated early under the first round of date-of-separation rollbacks have until Jan. 31 to apply for retirement. If they miss that deadline, they will lose their retirement benefits.